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Links will show in different colors depending on whether or not you have visited them before. It may not be under your control.

When I compose an email and type in an email address or a link, it always automatically changes to bright blue when I hit the space bar - up until today. Now, it changes to a red/brown and usually in bold. I'm not aware of anything I've done to lose the blue or set the brown. I've tried everything I can think of to find a solution in the ribbon settings and in the Word settings. I've Googled the question in your FAQs; I've searched my books. I can't figure out how to change it back. I know it must be a simple setting and it's distressing to not be able to find it. I'm fairly new to Win 7, but I haven't had such a simple thing become difficult until now. Can you help? I'm using Windows 7 Home Premium, Outlook 2010 and Word 2010.

In this excerpt from Answercast #47 I look at the way browsers, and some email programs, display links depending on whether or not you have visited them before.

Link colors

So, link colors are kind of interesting: the browser is often trying to help you. This is what you'll see in your browser:

  • If you are displayed a link in your browser, it will by default show up as blue, like you've seen.

  • If it's a link that you have recently been to, it actually shows up as a different color.

The link shows up as a different color. In fact, the default setting (at least for Internet Explorer) is that the link will show up in this reddish brown color, which is why your description makes me think that's exactly what's happening.

Test for "visited links"

So it's easy to test. In your browser, go take a look at a link that you have not been to. It can be any fully qualified link. If you go to Ask Leo!, I believe this will work, but basically on any number of sites that don't do any special processing of their links you should see this effect.

  • You see the link; the first time, it's blue.

  • You click on it and you come back. The link will actually have changed color to be red or this reddish brown color to indicate that you've already been to it.

It's basically the browser trying to help you keep track of which links you visited and which links you haven't.

Email links

Now, in email, my assumption, my guess is that what's happening here is that Outlook and/or Word (but I believe it's mostly Outlook at this point) are trying to mimic the behavior of the browser. It sounds like it's trying to do exactly the same thing.

  • Outlook seems to be trying to say, "This is a link that you've already been to."

  • As you're typing it in, it chooses the correct link color depending on whether you've been to that link or not.

Now, two things on that. One is if it's in Outlook 2010, I honestly don't know how to fix it. I'm not saying that it can't be fixed, but it's my impression that if they're doing the mimicking properly, it's not something that you actually can fix and that goes for the browser as well.

Websites and link color

The other reason that this isn't typically that huge an issue (or an issue that you really have that much control over) is that websites can override these settings. When the browser goes to a website, the website can say:

  • If it's a link they've already been to, display in this color.

  • If it's a link they haven't been to, display it in this other color or bold or flashing or underline...

Any number of different kinds of visual characteristics can be assigned to a link that has or has not been previously visited.

My assumption (like I said, it's just an assumption)... but my assumption is that Outlook 2010 is mimicking this exact same behavior as it is composing your email, as you're typing in your email. The short answer is I'm not aware of a way to fix it.

End of Answercast #47 Back to - Audio Segment

Article C5743 - August 27, 2012 « »

Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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1 Comment
Robin Clay
August 28, 2012 1:34 PM

Sometimes I put a Link into an e-mail I am sending. Because I have visited that WebSite, it appears in red-brown. But when it arrives at the other end, I guess it will appear in blue, unless the recipient has already been there and got a cookie ?

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